Two Vaudreuil-Dorion residents voice opposition to proposed Muslim cemetery
PHOTO BY JOHN JANTAK
Vaudreuil-Dorion Mayor Guy Pilon said he was both surprised and not surprised by statements made by Yves Boyer and Jean-Michel Smolsky during the second question period at the Monday evening council meeting on January 21 about the proposed Muslim cemetery. The mayor added both gentlemen were entitled to their opinions even if they were controversial.
Mayor Guy Pilon didn’t mince words when he criticized two citizens for their blatant racist attitude after they said they opposed plans to build a Muslim cemetery next to an existing Catholic cemetery in Vaudreuil-Dorion.
Residents Yves Boyer, a former municipal councillor, and Jean-Michel Smolsky voiced their opposition during the second question period at the Monday evening council period on January 21. “I’m against the cemetery and I’ve consulted other people who are also against it,” said Boyer.
‘Are we going to create a ghetto?’
Smolsky used the city’s successful Je Suis cultural initiative program to tout the city’s inclusiveness except when it came to the Muslim cemetery. “Everybody is equal regardless of race and colour. We’re all part of a large family. Are we going to create a ghetto in Vaudreuil-Dorion with the new cemetery?” Smolsky asked.
The mayor asked why a Muslim cemetery would create a ghetto. Smolsky replied that the St. Jean Baptiste Catholic cemetery accepts people of all faiths, which Pilon immediately disputed as a false assertion. The new graveyard would be built with a slight abutment to the Catholic cemetery to allow for vehicle entry. It would also be located 350 metres from Rue St. Antoine.
PHOTO BY JOHN JANTAK
An overview of the location the proposed Muslim cemetery (green rectangle) which will be located 350 meters east of Rue St. Antoine and the St. Jean Baptiste Catholic cemetery (red rectangle). The green line at the bottom of the Catholic cemetery indicates a road that will allow people to access the Muslim cemetery.
Not opposed to Catholic cemetery enlargement
Pilon asked Boyer if he would oppose plans if the Catholic cemetery decided to enlarge its territory. “I wouldn’t have an objection,” said Boyer. “The fact his opposition has been expressed so clearly amazed me especially since it’s not near his house. It’s in a field next to another cemetery. I have a lot of difficulty trying to understand this,” said Pilon.
Boyer added he also found it hard to believe the city granted space for a Muslim cemetery while it searches for a new hospital site.
Pilon clarified it was the Communauté métropolitaine de Montréal (CMM) who decided against the hospital location and not the Town of Vaudreuil-Dorion.
The mayor added both gentlemen were entitled to their opinions even if they were controversial.
‘The right to their opinion’
“I’m very disappointed but not surprised at all. It’s a shame because they have the right to their opinion which is okay for every citizen in Quebec and Canada too. After that, they have to give me a reason. If the only reason is because you don’t like the people who are going to be buried there, I have a problem with that,” said Pilon.
District 4 Councillor Céline Chartier said the Catholic parish and diocese had no objection to grant passage on their land to the proposed Muslim cemetery.
‘This is supposed to be 2019’
None of the responses made by Pilon and Chartier appeased Boyer or Smolsky. “All the council members were talking after the meeting and we all said, ‘Wow’. We’re in Vaudreuil-Dorion. This is supposed to be 2019. I’m very disappointed by it but I’m not surprised,” said Pilon.
Boyer – who said he spoke to about 50 people who opposed the cemetery – asked whether the city would hold a referendum on the issue. Pilon said a referendum would be held if enough people signed a registry because it would involve a zoning change, although he didn’t know how many people would be entitled to vote.
Quebec City Muslim Cemetery
In July 2017, a referendum was held that rejected a proposed Muslim cemetery in the small rural community of Saint-Apollinaire southwest of Quebec City. Out of 49 eligible voters, 36 residents cast ballots – 19 people voted no, 16 voted yes and one ballot was spoiled.
A few weeks later, Quebec City announced it signed an agreement with the Quebec Islamic Cultural Centre and after the centre made an offer to buy land next to the Notre-Dame-de-Belmont cemetery.